Scientists Drill into Ancient Coral Reefs To Find Secrets About Surviving Rising Seas

coral blues photo

Photo via nurpax via Flickr Creative Commons

In an instance where drilling into the Great Barrier Reef is a good thing, scientists are pulling core samples of ancient coral to unravel how sea level changes have impacted corals in the past, and perhaps help predict what can happen to them in the future as they struggle with relatively rapid shifts in their marine environments. The corals they're studying lived about 20,000 years ago when the planet was about 9 degrees F cooler than present temperatures, and their growth patterns could reveal secrets modern day conservationists need to know to keep reefs alive. According to Live Science, scientists spent two months drilling 34 holes into the ancient coral reef. Because the area isn't subject to much seismic activity, the samples have stayed stable over time, providing an accurate picture of what's happened to coral over the ages in terms of ocean temperature, salinity, chemistry and sea levels -- on of the most important elements of the study since different species can only grow in certain depths.

Now that about 730 feet of coral samples have been pulled up, scientists will start studying them to find out what mysteries, and solutions, the present for marine conservationists hoping to help today's corals cope with deeper, warmer, more acidic water. Their findings will be published in July 2011.

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